Callum McGregor – Why this Celtic team needs its leader

One thing that was abundantly clear from the Scottish Cup tie against Aberdeen at the weekend and for several matches beforehand, is that we badly miss a fit and in-form Callum McGregor.

The Scotland international has been sensational for us for many years and his miss is keenly felt in the Celtic engine room when he is not there to dictate the play and allow others to do their thing in an attacking sense.

Reo Hatate’s return to the starting line-up has been most welcome, however, we need that triumvirate of McGregor, Hatate and O’Riley to really make this Hoops team sing beautifully. It’s been an underwhelming year for the purists amongst us, but that won’t matter a jot if Brendan Rodgers manages to save a season that was in real danger of descending into chaos just a few months ago.

The ship has been steadied somewhat considerably more than it had been and we’ve had tough tests which we have overcome – by the skin of our teeth on occasion mind you. Now is the time to really dig deep and grind out these next few results which will get us to the Promised Land. Another six games remain between now and the end of the campaign in May, and I for one would feel a whole lot better if Callum McGregor could rediscover his old self for them.

He was still off of it at Hampden Park on Saturday, just as he had been when he came into the battle at Ibrox. Uncharacteristically that day in Govan, he gave the ball away and it partly led to the Sima deflected goal which really got the home side’s tails up. It was a sign that he was maybe not ready to be rushed back into his old role at that time, in the aftermath of this achilles injury that has hampered him and by definition us, in the process towards the end of the season.

The worry that enters the psyche when he’s not in that spine with Cameron Carter-Vickers, Reo Hatate, Matt O’Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi is not something one wishes to experience too often; it has the capacity to bring on heavy breathing at times and leave Celtic supporters with a tightness in the chest area. The missing link between midfield and attack was so transparent on Saturday at Mount Vernon and it highlights the inability of Liam Scales to bring the ball out quickly and efficiently from the back, even more so.

I genuinely believe if our captain had not sustained this unfortunate issue with his foot, that we would have won at Ibrox stadium on 7 April and also dismissed the Dons in 90 minutes last weekend in the Scottish Cup Semi-final.

These late collapses in games of late is a worrying trend and if we cannot get to grips with the management of football matches, we will succumb to a sore one, sooner, rather than later. It’s essential that Callum finds his form again in these last few remaining matches and eases the burden on a Celtic team that looks as if it misses its skipper.

None of the above should be seen as criticism of Tomoki Iwata who has played the number six role very well indeed and hit the best penalty in the shoot-out at the weekend. It’s Callum’s leadership and experience we are missing and at this time of the season the team needs its leader.

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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